parkrun tourism @ Highlands

Having done quite a lot of the Victorian parkruns, I decided it was time to make a list of what I had left. Then I marked those less than 2 hours drive away. Unfortunately, that is a very, very short list. After another full on week at school and still a bit tired from last week's half marathon efforts, I chose the closest on the list (my NENDY) – Highlands parkrun.

I hadn't been avoiding this one but I will admit it wasn't a priority. I'd seen the map and knew it was in one of the new estates. Despite being 'masterplanned' (whatever that means), they always tend to look a bit the same and not exactly picturesque. On top of that, I knew it was a 3 lap course, something I'm not at all a fan of (mostly as I tend to get lapped!). However being only a little over an hour from home, it was definitely our parkrun of choice this morning so off we went.

I will admit to being pleasantly surprised when we arrived. Once you've escaped the freeway and the airport sprawl, you head out into a weird, in between place full of both shiny new estates and older, larger blocks that have clearly been there since Melbourne Airport was surrounded by paddocks. And it's actually quite pretty, in a 'new estate' kind of way. The lake that this course loops around is lovely, especially bathed in this morning's Winter sunshine.

We met the crew at the new meeting place by the playground and listened to the briefing. Today was my 44th different course so I've heard a lot of different run briefings but today's was one of the best – a great mix of all the information you needed, a few laughs and a good sense of fun. In fact, it was very evident from the moment that we arrived that this parkrun has a great vibe – a real sense of a friendly, supportive community getting out and enjoying their Saturday morning run or walk.

Briefing done, we headed to the start line and were off on our first lap around the lake. As always, it took probably the first kilometre for us all to find our spots and thin out a bit but it wasn't particularly crowded with the path wide enough to accommodate. The surface is a combination of concrete path and wooden boardwalks which are a nice distraction. The course is almost entirely flat with one little hill (Bill's hill) taking you back up to the main footpath before starting you off on your next lap.

I wasn't sure how I'd run today as I'd already done 15km earlier in the week but I finished the first lap feeling pretty good. More importantly, I could see my husband across the other side of the lake and was determined he wouldn't be lapping me! So I put in a bit of a burst of speed to finish off my second lap. Another sign of how friendly and accommodating this parkrun is were the volunteers who happily took extra tops off people as they heated up and threw them off after the first lap.

Before I knew it, I was finishing my third lap and headed towards the finish line and the friendly faces that greeted me there. Most the parkrunners were encouraged over the line by name – another sign of how much of a community this one is and the supportive environment they've created. It was also fantastic to see the diversity of runners and walkers who participated with a huge variety of paces, all being acknowledged and celebrated.

Even better, good coffee and a tasty breakfast is just across the car park and we made the most of this before heading home.

Well done to all at Highlands parkrun for the great community spirit you've created in this event – if this is your local, you're very lucky to have such a supportive running crew to help you reach your goals.

Dopey training – week 5

What a week! It was, officially, a tapering week before my half so I went into it knowing I didn't want to do too much. Just enough to follow the plan.

My Tuesday run moved to Wednesday as I had to swap my late night at work. For some reason, I was feeling full of beans and set out feeling like running….so I ran. And didn't stop. No intervals, no walk breaks, just running, which is something I almost never do. Before I knew it, I'd run the block and finished just over 5 km without feeling the need for a walk break. I'm still committed to the whole Galloway thing but it's nice to know that it's through choice, not because I have to. I think that was exactly what my running self esteem needed.

The second 45 minute run for the week was on Saturday…and was actually a walk. I was back at my home parkrun after ages away so I walked it with a friend, knowing I had the half marathon the next day. It was actually really good – a perfect Winter's morning, great company and no stress. Just what I needed.

And then the half marathon. A lot longer run than I needed to do but so much fun, especially with the added bonus of a bunch of PBs. Check out my blog post for more details of this one.

Weekly summary
Wednesday – 5.7km (45:11)
Saturday – 5km (53:17)
Sunday – 21.1km (2:49:46)

Run Melbourne half marathon – race recap

I'm home – installed on the couch with my medal still in sight so all that's left to do is tell you all about it.

Run Melbourne half marathon was on this morning, requiring us to have a ridiculously early wake up call at some time beginning with a 4. We headed off to Melbourne and were dropped near Federation Square then got ourselves ready to run.

As always, I started this one not knowing how I'd go. Training has gone well and I've done all the runs I was supposed to. I'm not sick. I'm not injured. No excuses. However you never actually know how you'll feel and how the run will play out until you're in it. (Or is that just me?)

I started this one in a very familiar way – with my amazing running friends. We hung out at the back of the start, letting all the faster ones go through. It was only as we snuck a look behind us as we walked to the start line that we realised exactly how far at the back we were – a mere handful of runners were behind us. "Good," I thought. "Less people to overtake me."

And so we began. I'd discovered a nifty trick to have both run/walk reminders and my kilometre pace screen so felt doubly in control of what was going on. Right on cue, it beeped at 2 minutes, telling me to walk. I used to find it hard to walk that early in an event but now I know better – if you follow Galloway and do it properly, it should let you be just as fast but not as fatigued. As long as you do it properly. So I walked. I had a momentary "hmmmm, I'm last and this is going to be a very quiet run" as there was no one else around but knew the course needed to stay open for the 10km runners and no one seemed to be hurrying me so I kept going at my pace. We ran along a bit of Southbank and headed along Spencer Street then up Collins Street (and the hill – actually not too bad) into the Docklands. So far, so good.

My friend and I chatted as we ran and were soon joined by another lady we'd met at the start line who asked if she could join us – absolutely. We introduced her to the world of Galloway intervals and continued on our merry way.

Coming back into Southbank, we were on track and feeling ok. I won't say 'feeling great' because, well, we were running a half marathon and were bound to be feeling tired. But tired was all – no injuries, no terrible soreness, no real issues. And keeping up with the intervals.

Running along towards the Domain was probably the only time I felt lonely out on the course – here was this wide stretch of road with no supporters, no cheer squads and few other runners to keep us company. Soon enough, we turned into the gardens for a loop and all of that was fixed – lots of other runners and an absolutely brilliant choir singing exactly the inspirational music we needed to hear. We took advantage of a bit of downhill and made up some time then did a u-turn and headed back up the hill, power walking it out.

Anderson Street hill was next – not my favourite uphill part but I do love that downhill and we definitely made the most of it. We also glimpsed our first person wearing a medal along here and it was a great reminder of the bling we would be getting for completing – all incentives were needed by this point as things were starting to ache a bit. We also had some smiles for a runner who came hurtling past us giving cheers (or possibly just grunts but we'll take it!).

Along the tan and around the corner and we saw the crew from Lalor parkrun who had, helpfully, written 'one parkrun to go' on the road – exactly what we needed to hear. We then ran alongside the 10km runners lining up to start although they were clearly nervous and in the zone as there wasn't much encouragement from them.

Running back along the river and over Swan Street Bridge, we were passed by the first 10km runners. I found the last few kilometres a challenge and power walked a lot of it with bits of running when walking hurt too much. The dreaded hill up to Flinders Street actually wasn't so bad (did someone flatten it a bit this year?!?) and, soon enough, we were running down the hill towards the turn into Birrarung Marr.

I was ridiculously pleased to see the finish line but also so happy to be crossing it with my great running friend, Jo and new running friend, Julie. And I was also absolutely over the moon to have beat my half marathon PB by over 2 minutes. (I had also managed to smash my 10km, 15km, 10mile and 20km PBs as well). My time, according to Strava was 2:49:33 – so proud of the work that has gone into training for this and feeling more positive than ever with the journey towards Disney.

The (mind) games runners play

Tomorrow I'm running a half marathon as part of Run Melbourne. So, naturally, the anxiety and general freaking out started about a week ago and will continue until I cross the start line in the morning. Have I trained enough? Will the weather be ok? I wonder how far I can push myself?

These are the pre-mind games I play before every event and I don't know that I'm getting any better at reigning it in. Despite knowing that I've done this distance 7 times before, I've still got nerves. I have to remember the advice I give to my Grade 4 students – nerves about something mean that it matters. That you care. They're not a bad thing and we shouldn't try to quell or fight them – just accept that they're there and they're giving you a message.

However I know that, once I start, I'll be fine. Crossing the start line means a whole lot of other mental games come into it to get me to the finish. Here are some of my favourite tricks to make 21km not seem like, well, 21km….

  • run/walk intervals – I generally run my long runs at 2/1 or 3/1 (eg, 2 minute run, 1 minute walk) as I've found Jeff Galloways' training and techniques to really help me, mentally and physically. That way, I only allow myself to think about the next 3 or 4 minutes, never more. I do not, under any circumstances, think about the whole distance or time that I will be running. Get through this 3 minutes and the rest will take care of itself.
  • run the kilometre you're in – If I'm not feeling as tied into doing set intervals, I change the screen on my Garmin to show the pace per kilometre and I focus on that. This is particularly useful if I'm aiming for a time goal. I know what pace I need to aim for and I track that in the kilometre I'm in but don't allow myself to think of the next kilometre or any that I've finished. Just this one. Make this one good and keep it within the pace I want but don't think of the future or the past.
  • break it down – Thinking about 21.1km when you start a half marathon is a very, very bad idea. It's a long way. If you run at my speed, you'll be out there for quite a long time. Neither of those things will particularly inspire you while standing on the start line so I try not to think of it in terms of total distance, rather I think of chunks. A few kilometres to the first aid station. A few kilometres to a bridge or other landmark. A few kilometres to the half way mark or a turnaround point. A few kilometres to another aid station. Before you know it, the kilometres have flown by and you're counting them down towards the finish line. I only allow myself to count down once it's less than 5km to go – that's a parkrun. I can do a parkrun, even if I'm tired, sore and over it.
  • think about someone else – This one started for me while doing my first 'Run for the kids' where the kilometre markers were pictures of children who were in the Royal Children's Hospital, fighting all sorts of illnesses and conditions. Thinking about them made it very hard to feel sorry for myself and my pseudo woes. I also think a lot about my heroes and the tenacity they demonstrate – Turia Pitt, Kelli Roberts and Kurt Fearnley being 3 that spring to mind. The combination of thinking of those who would want to run and can't and thinking of those who show what strength really looks like is a potent one and always make me hold my head a little higher and run a little stronger.

Whoever said that running is more mental than physical was completely right – for me, it is definitely that way. My runs that are hard are usually that way because of what is going on in my brain and not my body. Here's to me winning the mental battles tomorrow.

Dopey training – week 4

I thought that training might be a challenge this week as it's the first week of Term 3 and returning to school always seems to knock me around in unexpected ways. As it turned out, training was a challenge this week but for an entirely different reason – I didn't want to.

'Not wanting to' is a tough one to overcome. I allowed myself to give into it on Tuesday and not run, giving myself all sorts of justifications to make myself feel better. When I finally just came clean and was honest, it really was just that I didn't want to. Wednesday didn't see me in any better mood but I had a much needed and harsh word with myself – it's fine to not want to every now and then but if you don't want to do this day after day, why are you? No one's making you and you're actually paying for the privilege. Is this even something you want? The answer to that is a resounding yes so all other arguments went out the window, I put my gear on, shut the hell up and headed out the door. And, as usual, it was pretty good once I was out there. I quite like running at night – I like the way darkness envelopes you and makes it just about the run. The world seems different at night – a little bit magical and mysterious.

Friday's run was much easier to talk myself into – I'd taken my stuff to work and decided to head up to the You Yangs when I finished. I also had spent the day mentally giving myself permission to walk as much as I wanted to. The whole thing if I felt like it. What always happens when I do that is that I walk for a tiny bit then get caught up in it all and run. And that's what happened on Friday. It was a beautiful run – a stunning, crisp, blue sky evening with the trail feeling like cotton wool under my feet. Even the arduous climb up the Saddle wasn't so bad and, down the other side, I let my legs go and loved the exhilaration of it. I was also accompanied in the last little bit by a couple of large kangaroos – doesn't matter how long I live in this country, I still get a buzz out of that. And, to finish my run, I had an official finish line. Truly. The Trailplus event was setting up at the You Yangs for the weekend and they were just putting the finish line up when I arrived so I helped them out by testing that it met requirements.

Today's run. Well, I got it done. I had gone out to buy new shoes (which I'm sure will be the topic of a whole other post), forgotten my rain jacket and returned home feeling out of sorts. Remembering the talk I had with myself the other day, I put my new shoes on, found my rain jacket and put it on then headed out into an almost instant and heavy downpour. Within about 500 metres I was thinking of turning around to the warmth of my living room however I then actually started to enjoy it and figured I was wet now – I may as well stay that way and get this run done. 7.5km running around the streets of my town is actually pretty good for me so I've ended the week feeling good.

Let the tapering for Run Melbourne half marathon next weekend begin!

Weekly summary:
Wednesday – 5.5km (46:09)
Friday – 5km (45:52)
Sunday – 7.5km (1:00:19)

Dopey training – week 3

Training this week has again been pretty easy with school holidays providing ample time to get my kilometres done. And, with more time and less stress, I’ve slotted in a few different places for runs which always help keep it interesting.

I started with a short run around the Geelong waterfront which felt a bit slow but, according to Strava, was about right. I had managed to time it perfectly so I was treated to a beautiful sunset which made it all a lot better.

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As I had time on my hands, I decided to switch my long run around and do it on Thursday instead of the weekend. I opted for one of my favourite long run routes – a 17km loop around Melbourne. I’ve done the route a couple of times before but it was a little bit strange running during a weekday with suited people going about their daily chores while I got hot and sweaty out on the street. It was a pretty good run and I managed to keep to my 2 minute run/1 minute walk intervals up until about 13km when my feet were starting to get sore so I switched to run when I felt like it, walk when I didn’t. By 15km, I pretty much was walking – anything to get it finished, despite my now ridiculously achy feet. I made it back to the car having completed 17.7km – my longest long run on my own so I was proud of that. And my overall pace was exactly the same as my long run before Melbourne half marathon last year so that’s pretty good too.

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For my final short run for the week, I headed to my favourite surf coast trail today so soak up the views and pretend it’s not the last day of holidays. The next 2 weeks are quieter as I’m tapering for the Run Melbourne half – probably a good thing as Term 3 will no doubt hit like a freight train!

Weekly summary:

Tuesday: 5.5km (45 minutes)
Thursday: 17.7km (2 hours 36 minutes)
Sunday: 5.5km (45 minutes)

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What are you running for?

I was listening to a running podcast the other day and was encouraged to contemplate why I run. It’s actually quite a big and profound question and not easily answered. At least not in a single part – I have many reasons and some are more important than others on a given run. So here are my current reasons…

  • Indigenous marathon project
    This one is a big reason for me right now. I have chosen to raise funds for this amazing project through my running of the Disney Dopey challenge and I couldn’t be prouder to support them. The historical and contemporary treatment of Aboriginals in our country is nothing to be proud of and programs like this go a long way to changing that. This program supports indigenous people from all over Australia to get into running and, ultimately, to aim for the New York marathon, all the while earning qualifications in health and fitness and inspiring their families and communities. As a teacher, I know how much of a role model I am for my students, intentionally or not so I love that this project empowers young people to be the most positive role models they can be. I could go on and on about the benefits but I won’t. Check out their website and please, please – if you can spare a small amount to donate to my fundraising efforts, I’d be so grateful.
  • My mental health
    The physical benefits of running are well known and pretty obvious but so much of why I run is for the mental benefits. Running allows me to retreat to a zen like space in my head where all that matters is my breathing, where my feet are landing and the environment around me. Other things will pop in and out of my head but nothing sticks other than my basic needs. Quite often, I come home with solutions to problems I wasn’t even able to articulate when I went out. And when my anxiety rears its ugly, insidious head, the endorphins from running reign it in. Few of my stormy moods last past the 4th kilometre of any run.
  • For the sense of accomplishment
    I wouldn’t say I’m an overachiever but I have always been someone who set high standards and pushed to achieve them. The goals I set and achieve through running bring me such a strong sense of accomplishment – maybe because they usually scare me to begin with? Even my regular training runs end with me feeling almost a little smug – I got it done despite all the reasons I could have conjured up not to. It’s not about beating anyone else, it’s about beating me. Conquering fears and resisting the voice in my head that says it can’t be done.
  • Feeling part of something
    This is a bit of an odd one and not one I anticipated when I started running. I’d had flirtations with running, on and off, for a few years but have now been running consistently for 3 years. And when I say consistently, I mean it – I’ve run 3 or 4 times a week, every week, for the last 3 years. A significant contributor to me sticking with it this time is the running community I’ve found. First online through the inspirational five30runners, then through parkrun in Geelong and then through the network of running friends I’ve built up, locally and far away. I’m not a huge fan of running with people but knowing they’re around, either on the trail, for coffee afterwards or virtually through a facebook group brings me a lot of happiness and comfort. Most of my running is alone but far from lonely and swapping running tales with this bunch is guaranteed to make me smile. I wouldn’t even have contemplated doing the Dopey challenge if it weren’t for them, believing in me and doing it together. So it might not have started out that way but feeling a part of this running tribe is now a very big reason why I run and why I’m sure I’d feel lost without it.

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I know there are more reasons but I’ll stop there so this doesn’t turn into an essay. Please note there is absolutely no ‘to get a better body’ type reasons anywhere in or near my list, nor will there ever be. I certainly run to be a better person but all of the benefits I care about are to my insides, not my outside.